So I guess you can tell by the title…but umm I have some pretty BIG NEWS! There is now OFFICIALLY a POP Pilates Certification Program!
AHHHH!! What!!!?? When? How?! WHERE!!!
Oh my goodness, where do I begin!? I think I have to tell you a story, but before the story starts I’m going to ask you to head over to the NAFC website and click “pre-register” and give us your info so we know where to schedule the workshops if you’re interested in learning how to be an Group Fitness Instructor like me.
Alrighty, did you do that? Good. Now, take a seat and have a good read :)
Exercising as a kid…
People always ask me – were you very active growing up? Well, my dad was a certified USTA coach and I starting playing tennis at the age of 6. I don’t know how many of you were ever tutored or coached by your parents, but it’s not a pleasant experience. My dad was a tough coach (he’s a tough guy) and if I ever hit the ball into the net or outside the line, he was not a happy man. He yelled at me. I cried. And this continued on until high school.
However, I guess my dad coached me well because when I got into high school, I made it onto the Varsity tennis team (one of the best teams in the league) as a freshman and then served as team captain for my next 3 years until I graduated. But you know what? Through championships and trophies, I really didn’t enjoy tennis at all. I was an extremely POWERFUL player when I practiced. But when it was game day, I hit the ball so softly and cautiously because I didn’t want to make a mistake. I HATED COMPETITION. All I wanted to do was just get the ball in the court and wait for my opponent to make the mistake, waiting for the game to be over. I guess my timidness came from my fear of failing growing up. As a result, I never was the #1 player on the team. The best I was ever was only #2.
Why I fell in love with Pilates…
Anyway, when I was 16, I was watching TV Saturday morning and saw an infomercial for Mari Winsor Pilates. I was like huh? What’s that? It looked pretty and fun so I begged my mom and dad to buy me the Pilates set. At the time I was also training for the Miss Teen Chinatown pageant, so I wanted a good way to get lean and ready for the stage.
I diligently practiced my Pilates every night after school and started seeing some results so I fell in love with the practice! Pilates helped me feel more confident with my body and of course, my early beginnings DEFINITELY built my foundation for KILLER core power. (That’s how I can keep talking while doing eagle crunches and hip dips like nobody’s business!)
Now this really shouldn’t be part of the blog post but I’ll tell you anyway because I don’t know where else I would elaborate on this. So…here it goes :)
After my nightly Pilates sessions in my bedroom, I took out a book called “Winning the Crown” or something like that and read memoirs of past Miss America’s with tips on how to nail the interview portion. Oh jeez. I was definitely SO SERIOUS about this pageant. My dad kept telling me I was wasting my time and kept telling me to drop out of the competition and study more math. But I persisted.
The night of the pageant I was given the #16 to wear. I walked tall, poised, and proud thanks to Pilates. I answered my Q&A pretty well thanks to “Winning the Crown.” And during talent…let’s just say I’m never going to release my Michael Jackson “Beat It” impersonation but it received a standing ovation :P
HAHAHA omg. I can’t even believe I’m telling you about this now!! SO EMBARRASSING!!!
That night, #16 was called out into the semi-finals. Then Top 10. Then they started announcing the runner ups. 3 girls out of 10 were already given titles of 3rd princess, 2nd, princess, and 1st princess. My heart was beating so fast as those stage lights were shining down hard on all of us. Either I was going to be something or I was going to be nothing.
The drumroll came.
And the 2003 Miss Teen Chinatown is…
#16 CASSEY HO!!
There I am in my twinkly blue ballgown and a big tiara :) So the reason why 16 is my favorite number is because my birthday is on Jan 16th and I was 16 when I won the Miss Teen Pageant as contestant #16.
I went on that tangent because I wanted to tell you that on my journey to discovering who I was and what I liked, I found that Pilates helped me become a stronger and more confident person! Pilates was a competition with myself to be better than who I was yesterday, so I enjoyed that aspect of the practice.
Throughout high school, I started drifting farther and farther away from tennis as it did not fulfill me the way Pilates did, plus I got a bad wrist injury during a game that nearly tore my hand. I kept up with Pilates to stay fit.
My first Pilates job…
I went to Whittier College to pursue a degree in Biology to one day become a doctor (my parent’s wishes). I did not have a great time studying my brains out for a profession I did not want to be in. My Asian peeps, you know what I mean when I say I had no choice right? Well to get me through my internal struggle with my true passions, I got into Pilates a lot more. It was the one thing that grounded me and kept me calm. I even started teaching my floor mates my favorite ab routines in the lounge hall for fun!
Then one day, I was looking through the Classifieds for jobs and found an opening for “Pilates Instructor” at a small gym in Uptown Whittier. At this point I had been practicing for 4 years with no real teaching experience. But I said what the heck and called in for an audition anyway!
I led the gym owner through a 10 min routine and by the end of it, she said I was hired and that she’d pay for my Pilates certification.
Looking back, I was not good at all! Maybe Evelia saw something in me and believed in me. Well, thank goodness because honestly, had my first audition failed or had she not offered me a job, I don’t even know if I ever would have started teaching.
And that’s how I became a Pilates Instructor. I took a chance on myself and someone took a chance on me. I was 20 years old.
I taught throughout college a few times a week. It really kept me sane. When my parents found out, they got mad and told me to quit and make more time for studying. (You better bet I didn’t take that advice.)
From there, I got a job teaching at 24 Hour Fitness. (I was so happy that I was teaching at a real big box gym!) I remember my first ever class teaching in front of 30+ people. I was LITERALLY SHAKING. Like LITERALLY. I could see my headset mic trembling. I was so nervous and I kept counting everything. Like “Let’s do double leg lifts! Okay 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.”
I was probably horrendous but the more I got up in front of my students, the more comfortable I became.
The scariest audition ever…
From there, I got a job at Bally’s. Then Crunch. Then Boston Sports Club. I’ve literally taught at almost every chain possible. Then there was Equinox. Oh Equinox. The top gym in the world with the most beautiful yoga studios, the swankiest swimming pools, and top level group fitness instructors. It was what they called fitness heaven.
I eventually moved from the West Coast to the East Coast for my first job ever in fashion buying. My parents again were extremely upset with me because I disobeyed orders, dropped out of Organic Chemistry, and sabotaged myself from ever taking the MCAT and getting into med school. (I did graduate with a degree in Bio though!) All the arguing ended in me ending communication with them. I’ll get more into that in an intimate video I’m posting tomorrow.
Anyway…to work at Equinox was my ultimate dream. I heard the auditions were tough so I did everything I could to get ready. I re-read my Pilates books to make sure I knew the terminology and the anatomy of the body. I choreographed a routine that showed off some of my most intricate moves.
The day of the audition, they stuck about 30 of us in a yoga studio that resembled a floating lily pad from the outside. Everyone was fit, beautiful, and some of Boston’s finest. The Group Fitness Directors called one instructor up to the front of the room. You had 2 minutes to show your best routine. The rest of us had to follow with perfect form. Then when your time was done (or if they couldn’t stand watching you anymore) they would tell you to stop and they’d call the next person up. This was called the Round Robin audition. It was NERVE-WRECKING. It was so American Idol status.
At the end of the long day, I was physically exhausted and mentally exhausted. They said they’d call us if we made it through to callbacks. I waited by my phone every day.
1 day passed. 3 days. 1 week. 2 weeks. I was dying. So I called them and asked if I had made it. “No,” she said. “You were like a video instructor and had no connection to your students. Try again next year.”
I was sooooooo devastated. I cried. A lot. I mean, my dream of being an Equinox instructor was forever crushed.
So I continued on at my mind numbing day job hating every second of it. As you may recall from some of my other blog posts, about half a year through my first corporate job, I quit because one of my oGorgeous yoga bags made it into SHAPE Magazine and I took it as a sign to just take a chance on my happiness, on my own success and go big.
During this time of unemployment, designing, and soul searching, I upped my weekly Pilates classes from 2 times to 12 times a week to pay the bills. I also started to YouTube and blog a lot more. Life was pretty tough but you know what? All the classes I was teaching made me such a better instructor. I was also so much happier. I suddenly had this confidence and sense that I owned the room. Around this time, I also started incorporating pop music into my routines because I was getting really bored of the traditional, slow classical Pilates format that I had originally learned.
One day as I was searching Craigslist for jobs, I ran across the same Equinox ad I had seen a year ago. “GROUP FITNESS INSTRUCTOR OPEN CALL.”
Hmm, I thought. Do I try again? What if they remember me as the girl who looked like a video instructor and couldn’t teach? That’d be so embarrassing if I didn’t make it…again.
I mulled over it for a while.
Then I emailed the directors and said I was coming back to audition.
This time around when I entered the room, I felt a sense of calmness in my body. I wasn’t nervous for some reason. I told myself that at this very moment, all I can do is try my best to simply teach. Not impress. Not perform. Just teach. I hadn’t prepared any type of pre-choreographed routine that day. So when they called me up in front of the room, I took a look at my peers, taught them something new, and made them laugh.
When auditions were over that day, I told myself that whatever the outcome, it doesn’t matter. I know I am a good instructor. I was happy.
2 days later I got a phone call.
“Hi, is this Cassey?”
“It’s your Group Fitness Director from Equinox. I just wanted to let you know that I remember you from last year and you really improved a lot.”
“There were 50 people auditioning that day and out of those 50 only 2 made it through for a job offer.”
“And you’re one of them.”
I cried. I cried!! I danced! I jumped. And I cried!!! Was this really happening? Am I really now officially an Equinox Group Fitness instructor??!!
At that very moment I felt like I had accomplished my life dream. There was nothing more that I wanted. I was so so happy.
Blogilates and Dreams…
You know, it was 4 years ago when I first got hired by Equinox. 8 years ago when I first starting teaching. And 11 years ago when I popped in my first Pilates DVD.
As a Group Fitness Instructor, your ultimate dreams usually are either starring in their own DVD or having your own format be nationally recognized in a certification program.
Honestly, I can’t believe that the DVD dream happened earlier this year when POP Pilates: Total Body Workout was being sold in Target stores nationwide. Seeing my face next to Jillian Michaels, Billy Blanks, Tracy Anderson, Mari Winsor, and all those fitness superstars I grew up watching was SURREAL.
And then this? The POP Pilates Certification program is happening too in the same year? 2014 is only halfway through and it’s blowing me away!
Wow. All I can say is to never stop being passionate. Never stop chasing your dreams. Never stop working hard. And never listen to the people who don’t believe in you. FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU WANT and what you deserve.
All of this would not be possible if it weren’t for YOU GUYS. If you never started watching me on YouTube when I uploaded my first video in 2009, what would become of me!? I don’t know. But you helped shape my destiny with your love, your enthusiasm, and your own hard work and transformations. You made Blogilates what it is today. I cannot thank you enough. I love you so much. So so much.
The POP Pilates Certification Program
So if you’ve ever wondered, “How do I become a group fitness instructor?” or if you’ve ever wanted to teach POP Pilates at your own local gym, you now FINALLY can!
1. To be a certified POP Pilates Instructor, you will first need to be Group Fitness Certified to make sure you understand how to command a room, how to address the body, deal with students with injuries, and how to be a rockstar instructor with classes full of people! If you’re already certified in Group Fitness through a nationally accredited training program and are currently teaching other formats at the gym, you’re clear here! If not, I suggest you get group fitness certified through NAFC.
2. Then once you are Group Fitness Certified, you are ready to get POP Pilates certified! This is a one day intensive workshop where you will learn the routines I personally choreographed to some of my favorite songs. The routines are fun and easy to learn. Once you pass the exams, you are ready to get a job at the gym, and go make some lucky students very very sore :)
We have not currently scheduled the POP Pilates workshops yet because the locations are largely based on where the most interest is. So I suggest you go to the NAFC website and pre-register (for free), and enter your city, so we can see where the hot spots are!
Also, if you are for sure planning to become a POP Pilates Instructor (yay!), you should get the POP Pilates PowerCert Bundle Pack (it’s discounted) along with the NAFC Group Fitness Certification. Make sure you use this specific link here to get an automatic EXTRA 15% off your certifications:
If the price seems heavy, just remember that this is an investment in your education. With this certification you will be able to get more jobs and be viewed as a respected fitness professional. The biggest thing for me is that I feel like I get PAID to work out! Also being an instructor comes with many perks like having a free gym membership! But the best perk of all is creating friendships with your students while leading them to a healthier, fitter path. I will never ever EVER stop teaching. I love my students too much and I love teaching to much. I’m an instructor at heart.
And just so you know, traditional Pilates programs go for thousands and thousands of dollars. Classical Pilates is also becoming very stale and is mostly attractive to an older audience. So if you want to get into the group fitness game and have popular, super effective and fun classes at the gym, teach POP Pilates. Trust me. The students love the intensity, the quick pace, and the music.
Alrighty guys, I hope you learned a lot more about me. If you have any questions about the certification, please comment down below. I will be answering diligently!
Love you so much!! Yay!!
PS: New video of the day is The Bold & the BOOTIFUL. This one made my butt scream. It was amazing.
PPS: By the way, I ended up meeting Mari Winsor in real life on the BeFit “Fit at any age” segment a year ago. I was such a star struck little girl! Talk about coming full circle!!